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World War II Unit Activities

World War II affected even more nations than did World War I, which was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.” These activities will be useful for both classroom and home study of this traumatic period in world history.

1. On a world map, locate the Axis countries: Japan, Italy, and Germany. Study each country’s political climate between WWI and WWII. Culture and economics also played a part in the roles these countries chose to play.

2. Start an historical journal to accompany this unit. Use it to records feelings and questions that the child might have.

3. Study the popular music of the World War II era. What did the tunes and lyrics say about this time period?

4. Women entered the work force en mass during World War II. See how such figures as “Rosie the Riveter” affected the perception of women in the work force. Did it help or hinder a woman’s choice of whether she would work in or outside the home? Why?

5. After the war, many women who had factory jobs were laid off or replaced by returning veterans. What obstacles do you think were faced by the women who wanted to continue working outside the home?

6. The bombing of Pearl Harbor caused many Americans to treat all Japanese Americans with fear and suspicion. Do you think these feelings were justified? Would you have supported sending Japanese Americans to relocation camps? Why or why not?

7. Why did President Franklin D. Roosevelt refer to the bombing of Pearl Harbor as “a date that will live in infamy?”

8. Japanese Admiral Yamamoto feared that the attack on Pearl Harbor would eventually be detrimental to Japan’s cause. On what do you think the admiral based this concern?

9. World War II caused more destruction and loss of life than any other war in history. About 70 million people served in either the Allied or Axis armed forces with nearly 17 million of these losing their lives. There is no accurate record of how many civilians lost their lives because bombing raids destroyed many of the records that were needed to account for these deaths. Research questions:

§ Which group of countries (Allied or Axis) had the great number of military deaths?

§ Which Axis country had the greatest number of military deaths? Which Allied country?

§ Try and find out how many deaths that each of the countries recorded as a direct result of World War II.

10. The demands and research and development during the war years (1941-1945) resulted in scientists making many discoveries and inventions. List some of the discoveries or inventions that were developed during War World II. See if you can explain why the war “caused” those discoveries or inventions.

11. Compare the European national borders of today to those in place during World War II.

12. Read Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Investigate the role of the Danish Resistance during World War II.

13. Investigate the changes in Germany’s borders through out the 20th century.

14. Depending on the age of the child(ren) involved in this study, research the Holocaust. This is a very heinous chapter in world history, and the trauma of it will need to be adjusted for each child’s comprehension/emotional development level.

15. Investigate why Sweden remained neutral during World War II even though neighboring countries had fallen to the Nazis.

16. Identify any current events or situations in the world today in which one group of people may be the target of oppression or injustice by its government. Are there any groups who are striving to fight these injustices? Are these groups trying to fight this oppression using peaceful or violent methods?

17. On a world map, locate Japan. Look at Japan in relation to the United States and Pearl Harbor. Consider distance and size of each location.

18. Explore the Japanese culture as it existed between WWI and WWII. How did their culture impact their choices and their involvement in WWII?

19. Investigate how Pearl Harbor affected the US participation in WWII.

20. Wars do not simply “end” and then things return to normal. To understand one aspect of what this means read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr.

21. Investigate the rationing that occurred as a result of WWII. What was the OPA? What were rationing schedules? What are victory gardens?

22. Most people agree that the concept of recycling first became popular during World War II. Investigate why this statement is true and some of the recycling activities that people participated in. Compare recycling efforts then with what we have now.

23. Create a timeline of events that occurred during WWII.


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